Sierra Leone: The Gospel Advances
Langham Preaching Training in Sierra Leone
by Emmanuel Oladipo, Langham Preaching coordinator for English-speaking Africa
Corporal Richard Clarke was a military chaplain posted to Pajehun District after the civil war in Sierra Leone. Pastors of four other churches joined him to pray and plan together on how best to have an effective ministry in an area with very little Christian witness among the Muslims and animists. Then they heard of Langham Preaching, and they all attended Level 1. The effect was not merely to improve their preaching but to affirm them in their mission and raise their sights in working together for evangelistic outreach within their community.
They embraced the Preachers Club concept wholeheartedly and persuaded 12 more pastors and elders to join with them, meeting twice a month to share and pray and plan. They taught to the new members all they learned in Level 1, as a result of which several were able to participate in Level 2. A survey of the 14 chiefdoms in the district revealed that 8 of them do not have any churches at all. They mapped out a church-planting strategy, and thankfully, the people prove responsive and there is no difficulty when Muslims are converted. They have now planted five churches, with as many as 40 adult members in some.
This created a fresh problem. There is much more to church leadership than preaching. A more comprehensive training programme is therefore required. They took a good look at existing Bible schools and found three reasons why they could not serve their purpose. They are too far away, too expensive, and require a higher level of basic education than these rural farmers possess. The answer was to start a Langham Preaching Bible School! There are 14 currently enrolled, meeting every Saturday, with the Pastors bringing to their level what they had learned in their different Bible Schools and at Langham Preaching Seminars.
They have a long term strategy for self-sustenance but will appreciate whatever help they can get to enable them accelerate and intensify their evangelistic and training strategy as they embrace a window of opportunity which may not remain open for very long. They are already looking for a suitable land on which to build a multi-purpose hall to use for their Bible School and also rent out to generate income.
Janet Koroma has this in common with the Prophet Jeremiah: she came into the ministry against her will. The difference is that, instead of protesting that she was only a youth, her own protest was that she was only a woman, and a poorly trained one at that.
Janet did not complete High School. She had a boyfriend who had fled the troubled country of Sierra Leone for the United States and was going to obtain a visa for her to join him over there in the land of plenty. He did not; and the bright-eyed young lady was left in a lurch. Some kind friend got her enrolled for a course in management; but a male teacher with whom she refused to “cooperate” by being tutored in his home at night ensured that she failed to graduate with a diploma. Thankfully, life took an upward turn for her when she fell in love and got married to a man of God; and she enthusiastically embraced the demanding role of a pastor’s wife.
Janet took active interest in a new church plant 15 km from home to which she often travelled to encourage the new believers. On one such visit she was visited by a distraught 7-year-old who pleaded with her to come and pray for her dying sister. She had never hesitated to proclaim the charismatic doctrines of her church about this miracle working Jesus who is alive today, but this was different! Then she got to the house and broke into a cold sweat at the odour emanating from this girl who was covered with putrefying sores from top to toe. What else could she do but cry out to the Lord all she knew how?
She visited three days later only to be mobbed by the entire village because her prayer had broken the curse of the witches and healed the girl! What is more, they all wanted to become Christians, and she was able to show them the way of salvation.
Now much expanded, the Church needed a real pastor, but they insisted it was she who had to be the pastor. She was simply not given an option. Dropped in at the deep end, she took courses in her Church’s Bible School and did the best she could for the people under her charge. Then she had the opportunity to attend her first Langham Preaching seminar.
Janet testifies in her own words: “I’ve been preaching many messages, but sometimes out of context. I went to Bible schools but they never did me good as now. I usually dealt only with the New Testament. Now I know about preparing a message, taking the text in its context, whether it be Old Testament or New.”
Edison says that he used to deliver pre-cooked sermons to his congregation. He belonged to a denomination where pastors do not have to preach. A sermon is sent from head office every week and the pastor only has to turn on the tape recorder. They were good sermons, but Edison felt he was introduced to them “only as a spy,” and when he became pastor in a different church, he had nothing comparable to give to his congregation. It was only Langham Preaching seminar that he began to understand how to put together a sermon of his own.